Nature conservation is an uphill challenge as human-induced climate change and the way we manage land degrades wild habitats and disrupts wildlife migration, breeding and feeding patterns. Now nature conservation could face another human activity issue in terms of the Right to Roam campaign. Their goal of “free, fair and informed access to nature throughout England” came a step closer when the Labour Party pledged to introduce a Scottish-style right-to-roam law in England. But while we might welcome the freedom to access nature regardless of wealth, how do we balance people’s health and recreational needs with nature’s health and survival?
As autumn passes the baton to winter, we find ourselves slowing down, and shorter days and less sunlight means winter blues and even depression can strike. Colder weather keeps us indoors where there’s plenty of technology to entertain us, but too much screen time can leave us feeling stressed. We’re less connected to the natural world, yet research by The Wildlife Trusts and the University of Essex shows that spending time in nature is good for our health.
Contact with nature reduces anxiety and stress and improves mood, self-esteem, and attention and concentration. Exposure to nature also increases immunity and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children. Such is the importance of nature to wellbeing that Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, describes nature as ‘Vitamin N’.
Winter can be the ideal time for a nature walk and Norfolk the ideal place!
Autumn is my favourite time to get outdoors and go for a walk. Pick a sunny day and the backdrop of blue sky with golden trees takes your breath away. On days like this, my worries float away with the falling leaves.
When life’s stresses weigh me down, a walk in the woods puts the spring back in my step. When I’m breathing in the earthiness of a downpour or watching birds take flight, I feel alive. Continue reading →
I lift the blinds on the back door and there he is. Every morning, the garden birds arrive for breakfast but while other birds wait in the pine trees or gather on the fence, this fledgling sits between the flower pots. As I open the door, he hurries forward to be first in line for the soaked mealworms I sprinkle on the patio and then under the table where he will be safe. I have grown fond of this blackbird fledgling, although I know he is sick. He can no longer fly like his sibling. Continue reading →
A story of the stresses of urban life and the need for respite in nature
The car won’t start. Flat battery. It looks like I’ll have to catch the bus. But I’ve not been on a bus for years. Anxiety charges through me.
I’ve psyched myself up and I’m ready to go, but it’s pouring with rain. The windows will be steamed up and I won’t see a thing. I’ll have to rub a circle to see out and hope that my breath doesn’t fill the space faster than I can take in the view of the hills. Then there’s the smell of damp raincoats. I loathe the smell of damp raincoats. Continue reading →
Spending time in nature has many health benefits, yet we find ourselves more removed from the natural world
In economically developed countries, we enjoy medical and technological advances that improve our health and lifespan. We have education, transport, energy, and communication systems that give us greater opportunities for careers, business and travel, as well as a more comfortable lifestyle.
Scientific research backs up what conservation groups and nature enthusiasts know: spending time in nature is good for us
Research is increasingly showing the importance of a public health focus on disease prevention, with nature gaining ground as a natural approach to tackle a range of health problems. Continue reading →
An extract from my short memoir on searching for New Zealand’s owl
The memoir tells the story of a trip I made with my daughter to a small island in the Hauraki Gulf during her study on vocalisations of morepork, or ruru in Maori. I felt privileged to follow and watch this beautiful owl and my daughter in their natural habitat. Continue reading →
The winter carolings of Hardy’s frail thrush send a poignant message
My favourite poem, The Darkling Thrush highlights Hardy’s despair at the changes he witnessed as England’s agricultural based society was impacted by the industrial revolution. The narrator describes a bleak landscape that reflects this despair. He sees a “frail, gaunt, and small” thrush, suggesting that nature is also affected by the changes. Continue reading →
If you feel awe on seeing a breath-taking view, joy on hearing a song thrush’s trills, or contentment on listening to Mozart, you may also enjoy good health
Researchers in a study at UC Berkeley found a biological pathway between positive emotions and good health that involves pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that interact with immune system cells to regulate the inflammatory response to infection, disease and injury. However, sustained high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can be damaging and are associated with type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Continue reading →